According to Coeliac UK, one in 100 people have coeliac disease, a condition that makes the small intestine very sensitive to gluten. Then there are many more who have a recognised gluten intolerance. For anyone affected, eating the wrong foods can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. Coeliac Awareness Week (Monday 9 May – Sunday 15 May) aims to improve the diagnosis of the disease. It’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the growing number of quality, flavoursome products that anyone with an issue with gluten can eat.
Just because the likes of conventional bread, cake, pasta, biscuits and pastry are out, doesn’t mean missing out. There is now a wealth of tasty substitutes that, some would argue, are even better than the products they’re supposed to be emulating. We’ve tried and tested a big range, as well as speaking to people with a gluten-free diet to get them to nominate their favourite snacks and staples. Most of these on the list carry Coeliac UK’s crossed grain symbol, all are gluten free and, most importantly, very tasty.
1. Doves Farm Buckwheat Penne: £2.99 for 500g, Doves Farm
Testers raved about organic flour specialist Doves Farm’s pastas and their similarity to the real deal. This one’s made in Italy from buckwheat flour and has that pleasant, slightly chewy quality that you get from wholewheat versions. It keeps its shape when cooked and doesn’t get gloopy. Best served hot, ideally with a yummy creamy sauce.
2. Heck sausages 97% Pork Sausages: £3 for 400g, Tesco
Good news: just because you can’t eat gluten, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the joy that is sausage and mash, or sausage and anything for that matter. There are a number of gluten-free offerings out there, but family-run company Heck’s market-quality sausages, made using gluten-free breadcrumbs, really stand out for us in the flavour and looks stakes. They come in a range of options, including a chorizo-style version and a pork and apple option. Our pick is these succulent, reassuringly meaty-tasting bangers.
3. Schar Gluten Free Brown Ciabatta Rolls: £2 for 4 x 50g, Ocado
Gluten-free bread can veer into cardboard territory. These rolls, however, are a cut above a lot of offerings. The texture resembles a regular wholewheat roll and doesn’t fall apart when you try and put anything on or in it. We’d recommend heating them in the oven for a few minutes before serving. Make sure you have a pack of these on hand for burger baps this summer, too.
4. Nakd Cashew Cookie Bar: £14.31 for 35g x 18, Amazon
With the backlash against refined sugars, it’s not just those who need to steer clear of gluten who enjoy these bars made with raw fruit, oats and nuts, without any sugar, syrups or dodgy additives. There are ten flavours to choose from and our favourite is the Cashew Cookie, made with cashews and dates “smooshed” together. It’s a dense, moist and chewy bar, with a nuttiness running through it and enough of a natural sweetness to keep those sugar cravings at bay.
5. Nairn’s Gluten Free Cheese Oatcakes: £1.50 for 135g, Tesco
Nairn’s is known for its oatcakes and the British brand also does a sizable gluten-free range. While oats don’t contain gluten, they can be contaminated by other grains that do. So, Nairn’s range is made in a designated gluten-free bakery. This version of its classic oatcake is just a little bit crumblier than its counterpart and the distinctly cheesy flavour makes them a satisfying snack.
6. Nature’s Path Nice and Nobbly Granola Berries: £2.99 for 312g, Waitrose
Some of our testers told us there aren’t many decent granola options out there. But this one from Nature’s Path has a crunch to it and you get a load of fruit: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, as well as yoghurt chunks and though it is sweet, it’s not overpoweringly so. There’s also a pumpkin, raisin and almond version.
7. Kent and Fraser Gluten Free Spicy Ginger Crunchy Cookies: £2.39 for 125g, Ocado
Unlike a lot of gluten-free biscuits, these aren’t crumbly, they have a good snap to them (as Mary Berry would say), they taste buttery and that’s cut through with a fiery dose of crushed stem ginger. If that doesn’t sound like something you’d be into, try the brand’s equally tasty choc chip cookies.
8. Marks & Spencer Gluten Free Caramel Crunch Squares: £4.98 for 319g, Marks & Spencer
These nutty treats were firm favourites among our testers. The crunchy base is polenta but it tastes buttery, not unlike shortbread, topped with caramel, pecan nuts and dark chocolate drizzled over the top. These aren’t cheap (you get five in a pack) but they make a nice treat if you have guests coming for afternoon tea.
9. Voakes Free From Large Pork, Chicken and Stuffing Pie: £5.80 for 490g, Voakes Free From
York-based Voakes makes award-winning meat pies. When one of the family was diagnosed as coeliac, the recipe was rejigged so that she didn’t have to miss out. There are steak and chicken options to choose from, as well as some seriously good pork pies. In this, you get a layer of perfectly seasoned pork and chicken breast in a crisp, light pastry case that’s topped with sage and onion stuffing.
10. Nutribix Gluten Free Cereal: £3 for 375g, Sainsbury’s
If you can’t do without a morning Weetabix fix, this award-winning breakfast option is a wholegrain cereal made with sorghum, a gluten-free grain. The result is a cereal that tastes close to the real deal. Biscuits might need a bit more milk than your normal bowl but the light, flakey texture is spot on.
11. Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Ales Gluten Free Ale (abv 4.8%): £14.70 for 8 x 500ml
Hambleton Ales was a pioneer of gluten-free beer in the UK and this award-winning dark ale is a full-bodied, hoppy treat in a bottle with a zesty citrus finish. There’s also a lager available if you want something paler.
If it’s staples you’re after to recreate your favourite meals, we like Heck’s sausages and Doves Farm pastas – products that some would argue taste as good as the real deal. For a sweet fix, we like Kent and Fraser’s reassuringly crunchy cookies, or for a special treat M&S’s Caramel Crunch Squares.
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